Breastfeeding in a heatwave can be challenging, but it's important to remember that breastfeeding is one of the healthiest things you can do for your baby. Breast milk contains antibodies that help protect your baby from illness, and breastfed babies have fewer infections than formula-fed babies. It's also better for their immune system, teeth and gums and brain development. So try not to let the hot temperatures put you off: focus on keeping cool and comfortable while you're breastfeeding in a heatwave!
What if I'm too hot to breastfeed?
If you're too hot to breastfeed, there are a few things you can do:
Keep yourself and your baby in the shade as much as possible—and if you're in the sun, make sure that your baby is wearing cool clothing.
Wear light-colored, loose clothing that wicks away sweat (or opt for an open-backed nursing top).
How does breastfeeding in the heat affect my baby?
When you're breastfeeding, your baby gets the best way to keep cool: breast milk.
Water content: Breast milk has a high water content, which helps to keep your baby cool.
Protection from heat exhaustion: Breastfeeding in the heat increases risk of dehydration and heat exhaustion in both mothers and babies. Don't let this happen! Stay hydrated
Hydration: Breastfeeding is the best way to keep your baby hydrated so they can stay healthy during hot weather.
If I'm too hot, will it affect my breast milk supply?
If you're feeling too hot, it can affect your milk supply. The heat can make you feel tired, lethargic and less energised. It can also make breastfeeding more of a chore than an enjoyable bonding experience.
If this is the case for you, try these tips:
Try to find a shaded spot to sit or lie down in. If possible get some fresh air by opening the window or going outside for a few minutes whenever you're able to do so (make sure there's no risk of sunburn).
Wear loose clothing that allows your skin to breathe - ideally cotton clothing rather than synthetic fabrics which hold in moisture against the skin and promote sweating (we recommend our bamboo vests). Natural fabrics are good as they allow air circulation plus have thermoregulating properties.
What's the best way to cool down if I'm too hot to breastfeed?
Breastfeeding in a heatwave can feel challenging, but there are ways to keep it from feeling impossible. The first thing you can do is take a break when you need one. If you're breastfeeding and feel yourself becoming overheated, stop for awhile and try again later. You don't want to overheat your body or your baby's. Make sure that both of you stay as cool as possible by taking time out and giving yourselves time to cool down before continuing breastfeeding.
Another thing that might help is having someone else hold your baby while you take a cool shower or bath yourself, if possible. If not, try wetting cloths with water in the kitchen sink (or other cold source) and cooling off with those, they'll provide extra relief by absorbing heat through evaporation rather than just pushing it aside
Can the heat affect my baby's appetite?
A hot climate can affect your baby's appetite. If it is very hot, your baby may want to feed more often because your milk is providing hydration not just nutrition. If this happens, try to feed your baby on demand to ensure your babies hydration needs are met. Do not worry about the volume of milk taken on each feed as your milk will adapt to ensure your babies needs are met.
If a heatwave is very bad, is it OK to give my baby water instead of breastfeeding for a short time?
If your baby is under 6months old and exclusively breastfed, do not give your baby water in place of breast milk. This can lead to water intoxication which can be fatal.
If you baby is weaning / over 6 months then cooled boiled water can be offered alongside meals.
When your baby wants to feed more often in hot weather, don't worry that you're not producing enough milk. Don't try to stretch out feeds. Feed your baby as often as they wants.
In hot weather, it's common for your baby to want more frequent feeds. Don't worry that you're not producing enough milk. Your breasts are designed to produce the exact amount of milk your baby needs: if you're breastfeeding on cue (that is, within one hour of a feed), your body will keep up with demand. If the weather is really hot, you might find that your baby wants to feed more often than usual—which is great!
As long as you're breastfeeding your baby, they will get the nutrients they need. The key is to avoid dehydration and make sure that you are drinking plenty of fluids too. Remember that if your baby is well hydrated and happy, then it's OK for them not to drink anything else between feeds unless there's a medical reason why they should do so (like being sick).